Vinod Kamble quit his education after finishing Civil Engineering to accomplish his dream of filmmaking and said, his real-life struggle was the perfect plot behind the inspiration of “Kastoori”.
Coming from a Dalit (socially disadvantaged) family of sanitation workers, where his father worked as a sweeper, the director said, his film will be an eye-opener for many.
“In real life, we go to the toilet and don’t think about what happens after we leave. So if my film will make you uncomfortable, then my job is done. We, as a society, sometimes forget what others are going through, which is very sad and unfair. Dividing work by caste and genders is something that we should stop doing as Indians and work towards building a society that is happy and prosperous for everyone,” Kamble elaborated.
“My film will make you think about all the sh*t [bad practices] that we leave behind,” added Kamble who made his foray into filmmaking with the short film, “Grahan” in 2015.
His second short film “Post Mortem”, released in 2017, was screened in the National Competition section at the Mumbai International Film Festival in 2018. “Kastoori” (The Musk) is his first feature film.
Gopi, the lead character in the film, is a bright student who tops in Sanskrit and has to clean toilets, sweep premises, clean school water tanks, bury the dead and even perform post mortems in a local hospital to support his family.
He attributes his social alienation at school to the stinking environment he comes from. He learns that Kastoori is the fragrance that can help him regain his status and tries to seek it along with his friend Adim, ultimately realizing that Kastoori is within himself and the only means to get to it, is through education.
The film also weaves together several social evils in rural India, like corruption, the lack of educational facilities, local money-lenders, and unemployment.
It is based on the real-life story of Sunny Chavan, a 25-year-old youth from Maharashtra who has performed a record 3000 post-mortems. The film was the only Indian entry competing for an award with other European and World Cinemas at the SIFFCY (Smile Foundation International Film Festival for Children and Youth) in New Delhi.
Kamble said the reason why he didn’t show the lead character as Dalit, is because he wanted to avoid any labels being placed on him.
“I wanted him to stay away from any labels after the film. Showing such characters would mean categorizing the film. Gopi belongs to any class - a farmer, or carpenter. It’s not about him; it’s about children denied education which results in certain apathy,” he said.
“I wanted to show the world that even in the 21st century, there is a section that doesn’t enjoy the basic rights of life. I got the inspiration from there,” he said.
He feels that cinema is the medium that can help in changing perceptions.
“I feel that putting your own perspective to the public can sometimes work in your favour. When I was showing this film, many people came to me and appreciated my work. There were students from premier universities in the Indian national capital who wanted this film to be shown in their universities,” he said.
A notable feature of the film is the two lead child artists were first-time actors, chosen from a local government-run school in Maharashtra.